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Viking Law and Order

Places and Rituals of Assembly in the Medieval North

Alexandra Sanmark

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The first detailed appraisal of Norse assembly sites, providing detailed discussion of their archaeological profile and landscape setting

Until very recently Viking and Norse assembly sites were essentially unknown, apart from a few select sites, such as Thingvellir in Iceland. The Vikings are well-known for their violence and pillage, but they also had a well-organised system for political decision-making, legal cases and conflict resolution. Using archaeological evidence, written sources and place-names, this book provides a comprehensive analysis of their legal system and assembly sites, showing that this formed an integral part of Norse culture and identity, to the extent that the assembly institution was brought to all Norse settlements.

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List of Figures
List of Tables

1. Assembly Research: Past and Present
2. Early Germanic and Norse Assembly Organisations
3. Introducing the Assembly Sites of Scandinavia
4. Elite Rituals at Scandinavian Assemblies
5. Assembly Sites in Scandinavia: Activities and Rituals of the Community
6. Centralisation of Power: Christianity and Urbanisation
7. Norse in the North Atlantic: Iceland, Faroe Islands and Greenland
8. Norse in Scotland: Assembly and New Ancestors
9. Assemblies in the Longue Durée

About the Author

Alexandra Sanmark is Reader in Medieval Archaeology at the Centre for Nordic Studies, University of the Highlands and Islands. She specialises in The Viking Age in Scandinavia and the Viking expansion in the west and the North Atlantic, with a particular focus on landscape archaeology. She is also a specialist in the Christianisation of Europe and Scandinavia as well as Viking-age religion and ritual.


‘Diligently researched and well-written…Sanmark examines diverse examples of assembly sites, blending the discussion of archaeological data with that of textual evidence and place names; this is all supported by numerous informative, high-quality maps and photographs…highly recommended as a thought-provoking and valuable addition to any early medievalist’s bookshelf.’
- Ben Raffield, Uppsala University , The Society for Medieval Archaeology

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